The rugged natural beauty of Laguna Beach â€“ just minutes from UC Irvine â€“ is on display in a Langson Library exhibit titled â€śOpen Air & Light,â€ť which celebrates the townâ€™s history as an artistâ€™s colony.
Laguna Beach is best known for a style of painting called â€śplein air,â€ť which translates to â€śin the open air.â€ť The exhibit focuses on the period from 1906 to 1941. Local artists can still be seen perched on the bluffs, paintbrushes in hand, capturing the coastal landscape.
The areaâ€™s ocean views, sandy beaches and rolling hillsides are hallmarks of California Impressionism, made famous by such artists as William Wendt, Isaac Jenkinson Frazee, George Gardner Symons, Edgar Payne and Guy Rose.
Curated by public services librarian Steve MacLeod, the exhibit illustrates how broad support from the community contributed to Laguna Beachâ€™s rapid emergence as a center for the arts. On display are historical materials from UCI Librariesâ€™ Special Collections & Archives, as well as photos and prints loaned by The Irvine Museum, Laguna Art Museum, the Laguna Beach Historical Society and Bowers Museum.
â€śThis exhibit is unique in that it tells the story of how Laguna Beach inspired artists from all over the world and played an important role in the development of California Impressionism,â€ť MacLeod says. â€śMany museums show art from this era, but this exhibit really explains the local connection.â€ť
By 1917, more than 30 noted artists were working in Laguna Beach, and the Laguna Beach Art Association was founded in 1918 to advance interest in art. The Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters â€“ the cityâ€™s signature arts event â€“ was established in the 1930s.
The exhibitâ€™s opening reception drew art lovers and patrons from throughout Orange County, including James Irvine Swinden, president of The Irvine Museum. He gave a talk at the event, noting how the areaâ€™s â€śunbelievable light sourceâ€ť made it possible for artists to work outdoors all year â€“ an impossibility on the East Coast.
On display in Langson Libraryâ€™s Muriel Ansley Reynolds Gallery, the exhibit runs through April 2014.